Vincente Jose de Oliveria Muniz, known as Vik Muniz, was born 1961 in the low-class, Sao Paulo in Brazil. He grew up to leave Brazil and travel to Chicago and is now in New York residing there. He is a visual artist and began as a sculptor in the late 1980s. Later on, he developed his characteristic style and began creating drawings out of recognizable non-art materials and then photographing them.

I wouldn’t say all of his work is based on being environmentally aware and conscious, because it isn’t. However, he had his one project that involved being environmentally aware and conscious. To him, this project was extremely important and personal, but also as an artist he felt that this project needed to be expressed to the world for everyone to learn about; so he filmed this two year project and titled it Wasteland. It’s available on Netflix as well as the free internet, so it’s fairly easy to find it and watch it, which I highly suggest.

One of the world's largest landfills

The 2010 documentary features Muniz’s work with a group of “pickers” of recyclable materials on one of the world’s largest landfills, Jardim Gramacho, on the outskirts of Rio de Janerio. The documentary follows the lives of these designated pickers at the landfill and in their homes. It discusses what their jobs are like at the garbage dump and how it effects them in their personal lives. Muniz and these selected pickers gather tons and tons of recyclable materials from Jardim Gramacho and together, they all create large-scale mosaic portraits of themselves.

He photographs portraits of the pickers he has selected for this documentary and then projects the image onto on the floor of this enormous warehouse. Then he and these employees at the landfill place the recyclable materials they gathered onto these projections and then one-by-one, when they are finished Muniz photographs them again. Afterwards they were sold at actions all over London and they were exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Vik Muniz at Jardim Gramacho

By Amanda Garcia

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One response »

  1. Danielle Burke says:

    This is the first artist that came to my mind for this assignment after watching the video in photo class, but I couldn’t remember his name to save my life. So thanks for getting it so i could actually get the name, it was driving me nuts. I love how this guy uses items that everyone deems as trash to make beautiful portraits and that he uses the people that actually pick this garbage every day to earn somewhat of a living to create his work. Definitely a good movie for everyone in this class to watch!

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